It was a championship weekend for the four Elite AA Kachinas teams which competed in the CAN/AM Youth Challenge Cup in Austin, Texas, January 29-31. All four teams - 12U, 14U, 16U and 19U -- won their respective age groups.
Last fall, the Kachinas' President, Lyndsey Fry, said the girls' hockey association finally had its own rink -- and a place to hang its banners.
The Kachinas moved into the Coyotes Community Ice Center in October. Soon, they'll be hanging some banners. All of them earned in a single day.
Fry is basking in the moment.
"We're extremely excited," she said. "Just so proud. We're proud of all the work these kids put in to be able to get to this, all of our coaches. I'm just proud of the association as a whole. To be able to come out and sweep these teams that have been in existence, in some cases a decade, in more traditional hockey states. To come out in our second year and send a message like that, I think it is so significant for girls' hockey in Arizona."
Fry continued: "I just think it sends a message. It establishes us. There are a bunch of different teams from all around the country, and they see, from top to bottom, that an organization from Arizona takes the entire tournament. To me, that's going to create a buzz about what we're doing here. I think these kids have just helped solidify their futures here in Arizona as far the impact that they made this season and the chatter that's going to be going on, the hype around Arizona girls' hockey."
The four teams combined for a 15-1-1 record during the weekend.
"For me, as President, this means we're doing something right," Fry said. "We're developing kids and it's something where, top to bottom, there's success."
Matt Shott, Hockey Director and Vice President of the Kachinas Association was in Austin. He coaches the 14U AA Elite Team.
"It just means a lot to this program," Shott said. "It shows this association is a forced to reckoned with. It also showed our younger kids how much it means to play for this organization. I've gotten texts non-stop from different parents, other coaches, former players -- that's how huge it is. They realize having four championship teams in the same tournament is just not common at all. It's hard to really put into words. It's just so rare to be able to go and be that successful in one weekend with all four teams."
"As a hockey director, it's a very prideful thing to have four champions coming back."
The 12U AA Elite Kachinas finished the tournament 4-0-0, defeating Austin Inferno, 2-1, in the championship game.
The 14U AA Elite Kachinas finished the tournament 5-0-0, defeating Dallas Stars Elite, 1-0, in the championship game.
The 16U AA Elite Kachinas finished the tournament 3-0-1, defeating Anaheim Lady Ducks, 4-2, in the championship game.
The 19U AA Elite Kachinas finished the tournament 3-1-0, defeating Aberdeen Cougars, 3-1, in the championship game.
Each team was awarded a tournament plaque; each player received a gold medal.
"A huge shoutout to everybody," Fry said "Our coaches and parents especially. To be able to come together as an organization and see success, I really hope that our families and our players -- it's just such a good reminder that it's all worth it. With all of the struggle this year, it's all worth it. I'm only seeing pictures, but to see these kids' faces in person, I can't even imagine the joy these parents and our coaches are feeling."
But there were more Kachinas on the ice Sunday than just the elite teams.
The 12U A Kachinas won their first league game, and the 12U B Kachinas also won, finishing the weekend with a 3-0 record. Both teams competed against boys teams.
Additionally, the Kachinas held their annual 'Try Hockey Day' for girls interested in joining the association.
Shott and Fry summarized, respectively, Sunday as being "a turning point in the program," and "a huge day in Arizona Kachinas history."
"We've been pounding away here," Fry said. "We've been sharing our message, talking about what we're doing and why it's important, like, 'We're legit, we're here to stay.' We're here to make these girls the best hockey players they can be, and give them the best hockey experience ever."
Shott made a point of mentioning honorary Coyotes teammate and Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador Leighton Accardo, who passed away November 24 from Stage Four cancer. Leighton was a big part of the Kachinas Association and was set to play for one of the development teams. She was there with the team in spirit, Shott said.
Leighton's name will be added to each of the Kachinas' four championship banners.
And those banners will hang as a reminder to and an inspiration for current and future Kachinas.
"Now when they get to go to the rink every day," Shott said. "They get to see their accomplishments. They'll see their name on the banner, they'll see the plaque that we won, and they'll realize that they're making an impact here in this organization, and for girls' hockey in general."
Said Fry: "Some of these kids are 11 years old. They're going to be able to see those banners for the next six or seven years.
"I remember as a kid, you just walk into these buildings and there are these banners everywhere and you think, 'Wow, this organization's legit. Look how much they win.' I think this year, our first year in the building, we have four right out of the gate. I think it's just amazing. We're just going to continue to push to get better each and every day."
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12U Elite AA: Liliana Bauldry, Maria Payne, Avery Felton, Annabelle Green , Lily Hurley, Peyton Smith, Kenna Gillis, Caitlyn Schwankl, Camille Christensen, Emily Abel, Sophia Pappanduros, Calleigh Streit, Keira Shin, Teagan Devlin, Alex Ulm
14U Elite AA: Madeline Christoff, Keeley Callander, Alyssa Wilson, Savannah Allen, Emma Hart, Chloe Obrien, Brooklyn Higgins, Dylan DiGrazia, Ashtyn Silva, Bailey Cote, Julia Slaney, Erin Judge, Connie Streeter, Melanie Vanmeer, Marissa Morris, Kelly Jasper, Ashlyn Campbell
16U Elite AA: Sydney Pinti, Lauren Squires, Audrey Ju, Carter Beck, Isabella Gustafson, Kylie Carano, Tylee Schapler, Kendall Girnt, Isabellla Contreras, Davy Mokelke, Kacey Nielsen, Carson Beck, Lila Ellsworth, Alyssa Townsley, Sophie Fausel, Emma Girten, Kyra Mittendorf, Alyssa Amaya, Abigail Locke, Ella Brenner, Faith Dababneh, Caitlin Bailey
19U Elite AA: Kalia Howard, Madalyn Guertin, Victoria Gustafson, Isabella Puleo, Chloe Mohnach, Brooke Chase, Emily Oller, Hayden Marshall, Ritika Shah, Hannah Schneidmiller, Willow Troy, Ainsley Axtell, Piper Priem, Kylie Walsh, Elizabeth Marino, Brooke Hubert, Sydnee Brunner Vallandingham, Alyssa Ihling, Hunter DiGrazia, Riley Benson, Aidyn DiGrazia